President Megawati Sukarnoputri retires his five year tenure aspresident of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, toSusilo Bambang Yudhoyono after losing by 60 percent in theSeptember runoff election. Yudhoyono will be inaugurated intooffice tomorrow October 20, facing the tough task of rebuilding acountry plagued by attacks from al-Quaeda-linked terrorists,separatist conflicts and a economy still reeling from the 1998Asian finance crisis, Associated Press reported.
“Our big theme will be reconciliationand working together within democracy for our country’sfuture,” Yudhoyono told reporters. The 55-year-old, U.S.educated general is planning to make much needed improvementsduring his presidency.
Yodhoyono attended officer training college inthe United States and used the skills he learned to leadIndonesia’s anti-terror effort as Megawati’s securityminister. He is also credited for attempting to bring peace to theprovince of Aceh, where separatist guerillas have been fightingsince 1976 for an independent homeland stated AssociatedPress.
Yudhoyono’s first task as President willbe to pick his Cabinet and if he makes the correct choice ofprofessionals his popularity amongst the country will sky rocketwithin his first weeks. He also could plan a policy agenda thataddresses the desire of voters: a crackdown on national corruption,reduction of the country’s double digit unemployment rate,and taking a tougher stance against hardline Islamic groups byoutlawing the al-Quaeda linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group thathas been blamed for a line of bombings within the country, to boosthis popularity.
However critics say that Yudhoyono has ahistory of indecisiveness, has failed to give specifics on how heplans to govern Indonesia, and even in his campaign presented fewdistinct policies. Yet voters were hungry for a change and hisgrasp of the issues and honest image impressed many Indonesians.
For many Indonesians the unsuccessfuladministration of former President Megawiti had them looking forchange, losing most of their support by allowing corruption to gounchecked and creating many economic reforms.
This was the first election whereIndonesia’s 210 million people directly voted for theirpresident. The ballot was seen as a key step in the country’stransition into democracy after the downfall of ex-dictator Suhartoin 1998.
Yudhoyono Democratic Party holds less than 10percent of the seats in parliament meaning that he will either haveto make coalitions with his running mate’s party or go at italone and be at risk of political gridlock during hispresidency.
One of the current issues would be how heplans to deal with the issue of fuel subsidies, which are skyrocketing because of high oil prices. These subsidies mostlybenefit rich car owners and cutting them would produce excess moneyfor education and programs for the poor, however, they were cutlast year by the former president and this caused nationwide streetprotest.
Researcher Muhammad Husain feels that”He has to explain carefully to the public about thesituation they are facing and why they are taking action,”because if he increased fuel prices right away he would loose manyof his supporters and ruin his popularity.
Yudhoyono’s biggest challenge aspresident will be balancing the expectations of his supporters forfar-reaching reforms within the political realities on theground.